Tag Archives: John Frost

Great Radio Starts in the Station’s Hallways

Once upon a time, a radio station had a team of people fully focused and dedicated to a single radio signal. Think of the incredible radio stations you listened to in your youth: WABC, WKBW, WRKO, WLS, WPRO, WDRC, KHJ, KFRC, CKLW, etc. These were standalone radio stations with dedicated staffs that numbered ten or more times larger than today’s radio clusters, which are made up of 4 or more stations.

WBEC

When I was on-the-air and in programming/operations for AM1420-WBEC, it was the only radio station I was concerned about. When the owner added an FM signal to our operation, he hired a dedicated air staff and programmer to oversee this new signal.

In my car, in my home, in my office, you could here WBEC playing. I remember the programmer of our new FM station grousing that his station was not being heard anywhere in the building but his own radio studio.

WUPE/WUHN

When I moved into sales at Whoopee Radio, our programming was simulcast on both our AM and FM signals. When ownership decided to split the AM and FM into separate formats, I was promoted to general manager of the AM station and went about hiring air personalities and a sales staff for our new Radio One – WUHN. Only our broadcast engineer and office staff would be shared by both operations.

On my side of the building all you heard playing was WUHN and on the other side it was WUPE.

KOEL AM/FM, KCRR & KKCV

When I got to Iowa as Market Manager of a four station cluster, the sound of any one of the radio stations playing was hit and miss in the common areas, but each station had its own dedicated staff, completely focused on their operation. Again, only office and engineering staff were shared.

Radio Clusters in 2022

People wonder why Christian Radio and Public Radio stations are often the most successful radio operations in markets across America. I don’t wonder. What I see are radio operations that hearken back to the way I started in radio, an entire staff, 100% focused on a single radio station.

In these radio stations, the programming can be heard in the hallways, bathrooms and coming out of every office.

In my Capstone Class at the university, I would take my students to see how different radio and TV stations operated in the area. The differences in equipment, staffing, and facilities were always enlightening. Everyone in these stations could be seen jumping from one station to another, many had programs they hosted on more than one signal.

What never ceased to amaze me however, was when you went into our local public radio station or our local Christian radio station, the energy was palpable. Everyone in these radio stations were dedicated to the mission of the station. They didn’t just broadcast their formats, they lived and breathed them.

Culture always changes in the hallways,

before it changes out the speakers.

-John Frost

When John Frost asked in his weekly blog, “if your radio station went off the air, would anyone care,” it got me to thinking about what makes for a successful operation. Be it a business, sports team, or even a radio station, if you don’t have that spirit of a shared mission with a defined goal that everyone’s working towards, you won’t ever be a success.

Radio broadcasting is an emotional art form. If you don’t feel that emotion in the hallways of your operation, you’ve entered a radio station that is dying.

Radio is not dead, but many radio stations are on life support.

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Relevancy

82I am a trombone player. Or maybe I should say “was” as it’s been quite a few years since I picked up the horn. Growing up, I knew that was the instrument I wanted to play. Out of all the instruments in the band, trombone was the one that caught my attention and was relevant to me.

76 Trombones

Meredith Wilson’s Broadway smash “The Music Man” is one of my all time favorite musicals. Can you guess why?

In that production, Robert Preston knows to be successful in selling band instruments “you gotta know the territory.” In fact, all of the carpetbaggers knew this. In “The Music Man” the song “Rock Island Line” establishes the rules of selling on the road. In other words, you had to know how to make what you were selling relevant.

And then I heard someone say RADIO

Alan Mason is a programmer that I’ve known for years. I subscribe to his weekly “Mason Minutes” and was thrilled to see Alan promoted to President of K-Love and Air1 as this New Year began. Alan actually assumed his presidency before Trump did.

Alan’s minute recently told the story of celebrating his birthday in a crowded restaurant. You know the scene, you hear lots of conversations but you’re not really paying attention. When Alan said he heard someone say “RADIO” and he heard that clearly.

“It’s funny how our minds are attuned to filter out almost everything except what’s relevant to us. We can be in a crowded ballroom buzzing with people and still hear our own name. It gets our attention and pulls us in,” Alan wrote.

Frost Advisory

I also subscribe to John Frost’s weekly “Frost Advisory” and John must have been as taken by what Alan wrote as I because he made it the subject of his programming memo this past week. John wrote about his friend Eddie who needed to get a passport photo. He went online and found a place all the way across town. It wasn’t until he was on his way home he noticed a camera store near where he lived that took passport photos. He never noticed, because getting a passport photo had no relevance to Eddie, until it did.

Radio Ads

And that’s the way it is with radio ads. The listener never hears them until something that’s relevant to them speaks to them.

Sadly, radio programmers no longer have a say in what commercials air on their radio stations.

I was a general manager before becoming a broadcast professor and even I had lost control of what ads would be placed on my radio stations by (at that time) Google.

Google did a deal with Clear Channel and would insert ads they had sold on all of the stations in my cluster between 2am and 3am in the morning. I wouldn’t even know what they had sold until I heard it on-the-air driving into the station.

I heard ads for restaurants advertising their lunch special for that day and the restaurant was over three hours away from my coverage area. I heard ads out-of-phase air on my AM station in the cluster that were 30-seconds of dead-air. (Out of phase ads means the left and right channels of audio cancel each other out on an AM mono signal.)

Bonneville Beautiful Music

When I moved to Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1984, WFPG-FM was a Bonneville Beautiful Music station. Bonneville had strict guidelines about what content could be added to their music presentation and that included commercials.

Atlantic City’s biggest car dealer did the loudest screaming radio ads you’ve ever heard. We dearly wanted their business but not those screaming ads.

It took lots of meetings but we finally convinced the owner not to “wear a t-shirt to our black tie” radio station over-the-air presentation. We would be the only radio station in Atlantic City to have specially created ads that would perfectly fit the musical content of our format.

I don’t hear that happening on any radio station today.

Relevancy

Today, money talks and nobody walks.

Radio stations appear to take every ad that comes through the door.

When you consider the volume of ads airing on stations these days, one or two ads in that cluster than aren’t relevant might lose the listener’s ear or worse, cause the station to be changed.

WAVV in Naples, Florida is a station that marches to a different drummer. It plays music the owner enjoys and the sound is so unique it can’t be heard anywhere else. It’s why the station doesn’t stream. You have to listen to it over-the-air on your FM radio. But what makes WAVV golden in my book is that the commercial breaks are just as carefully watched over as the music. The ads are about things that listeners attracted by the music will also enjoy. Be it theater, dining, travel, clothing etc.; it’s all relevant.

John Frost ends his article by writing “We throw a bunch of stuff at the wall without using the precise filter of relevance. Start with the listener and work back. What does she care about RIGHT NOW?”

Unless the program director is given the authority to approve every element that goes on the air and insure that each goes through the relevancy test, your product is compromised.

Is what I wrote relevant to your radio station?

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